Sermon for Bobbie Hansen’s Funeral: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: Remember the Resurrection

Jacopo Tintoretto The Resurrection of Christ (Zoom In) (610x351)When memory fades and recognition falters, when eyes we love grow dim and minds confused, speak to our souls of love that never alters; speak to our hearts, by pain and fear abused. O God of life and healing peace, empower us with patient courage, by your grace infused. As frailness grows, and youthful strengths diminish, in weary arms which worked their earnest fill, your aging servants labor now to finish their earthly tasks, as fits your mercy’s will.

We grieve their waning, yet rejoice, believing, your arms, unwearied, shall uphold us still. Within your Spirit, goodness lives unfading. The past and future mingle into one. All joys remain, un-shadowed light pervading. No valued deed will ever be undone. Your mind enfolds all finite acts and offerings. Held in your heart, our deathless life is won.

So wrote Mary Bringle for a friend whose mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s and whose husband, the caregiver, was growing increasingly frail. Like Mary, Alzheimer’s has touched all of your lives in the life of Bobbie. Unlike other diseases that may only ravage the body, Alzheimer’s ravages the body–but in a way that also takes away the mind. And so that disease leaves us weary and broken, aghast at how messed up life can get, in a way that no other disease can do.

And so it’s easy for us to grieve like those who have no hope, especially for those of you who loved Bobbie and knew her well. It’s normal for us fallen beings to place our trust in what we see and feel. For that’s what experience teaches us to believe is real, even if it’s not. And so we are naturally inclined to walk by sight–what we feel and see–and not by faith as God tells us to do (2 Corinthians 5:7).

And what did we see and feel? Bill would see the ravages of Alzheimer’s, first hand, as he would bring Bobbie her soft-serve ice cream week in and week out. Bill would come to visit Bobbie, faithfully living out his vocation as husband–even when Bobbie no longer knew who he was or what he was doing.

I would see Bobbie’s understanding of reality distort and break by a brain taken hostage by that cruel disease. Almost two years ago, I had visited Bobbie wearing regular clothes, instead of my black clericals. That was the only time she thought I was someone other than her pastor. On that day, she thought I was the tree man who had come to trim the branches in her yard. So, as I visited with her, she would impatiently say, “OK, but go out and cut the tree branches.”

Ironically, that was one of the best visits I ever had with Bobbie. Over time, her mind would vacate into a blank stare and all conversation would cease. Sadness would fill me as I visited her, especially knowing that both of my parents have Alzheimer’s.

And if that were all there was to life–that we live and then we die–then we should be the most pitied of all (1 Corinthians 15:19). Why would anything then be worth the bother? But did you hear what the Apostle Paul says that pierces the pall of darkness enshrouding us? He wasn’t just talking about the pains and sorrows of someone’s life being no more, which is the case for Bobbie right now. That’s what life is like when your soul is in heaven. Bobbie has no pain or sorrow–and for that we rejoice.

But Paul points us to something even beyond that. Paul points us, we who mourn the loss of someone we love, to the Last Day. That’s when Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead, as we confess every week in the Creed. That day will be such an astounding event that it even shapes how we live–and grieve. Did you catch that?

The Apostle Paul said that when someone we love has died in the faith, we “don’t grieve like others.” Oh, we still grieve. You are grieving right now in some way, whether inwardly or outwardly. And the difference in grief is not in how much you grieve, or how deeply you feel the loss. The grief of the Christian is different. Why? It’s different because we have hope! We know that God will fully restore what sin had taken away. That hope, the assurance of that future reality, shines a light that beams into the darkness of death and our depression.

That means the Alzheimer’s that Bobbie had does not define her. Your arthritis that you have, which gives you pain and causes your joints to creak, does not define you. What defines you is what you will be, specifically, what you will be on the Last Day, when Jesus returns. In Christ Jesus, the future bleeds into the present, even giving us the ability to rejoice in our sadness.

When Jesus returns, He will restore our bodies–then incorruptible, sinless, and perfect–when He calls them forth from the grave, just like Jesus rose from the grave of death. Jesus will restore what Alzheimer’s had taken away from Bobbie in a new, sinless, “upgraded,” and perfect body. He will also do that for you when death claims your body. Death does not define you.

That’s why Paul could say, “Encourage, comfort, one another with these words,” with what will take place when Jesus returns. Scripture doesn’t tell us to comfort someone who has lost a loved one, by saying: “Well, she’s in a better place. She’s no longer suffering.” Now, that’s all true–and we’ve all said those words, not knowing what to say. But Scripture doesn’t tell us to console others that way. Instead, it tells us to comfort others with the promise of the resurrection.

Now, why is that? It’s because the resurrection of the body is the promise of salvation in all its fullness. Why did Jesus bodily rise from the dead? It was so we also would rise bodily from the dead. That’s the point of Easter!

Jesus became incarnate, a person with a body and soul, to save you in body and soul. If Jesus wanted your salvation to be a bodiless being in heaven for all eternity, then He wouldn’t have needed to become incarnate. But Jesus was born with a body. For your sins, He died with a body. And He rose from the grave with a body. And so Jesus will save you, all of you, not just your soul, but also your body.

That’s what encourages us. That’s how we encourage and comfort others. Remember His resurrection. Remember your resurrection to come when Jesus returns. Reassure and comfort one another with those words. For when Christ returns, He will resurrect your body from this fallen creation, bringing to you the fullness His salvation. He will restore what sin had taken away.

But what about right now? We still grieve. Sadness has seeped into the marrow of our bones. We miss Bobbie. We’ve been missing Bobbie for a long time, even before she died, as the woman who we knew her to be withered away. What about right now?

Right now, Bobbie is in heaven. And for this we can rejoice, even amid our tears. All who trust in Christ and continue to live in their baptisms will rejoin Bobbie in a family reunion beyond all recognition. And so we can rejoice in that, even amid our tears.

And as Bobbie is rejoicing in heaven, still awaiting her body, she is worshipping God in eternity. But she’s also doing more than that. Oh, she is worshiping God and delighting in that. But the book of Hebrews also tells us that the saints in eternity are all around us. Oh, we can’t see them, for that eternal reality is beyond our fallen senses. But the book of Hebrews tells us that such a great a cloud of witnesses, the saints in eternity, are surrounding us (Hebrews 12:1).

So, why does that even matter when I’m sad? It matters because, even now, Bobbie is encouraging you to press on and run the race of faith that God has given you in this life. And the book of Hebrews continues. “Let us then throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Bobbie is now part of that great cloud of witnesses, cheering you on to run the race of faith and not give up. Throw off that which takes you away from Jesus. Turn from the sins that ensnare you and turn back to Christ. Persevere in the race of faith during your life here, which the book of Revelation calls a “great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14).

Keep wearing the robe of Christ’s righteousness that God gave you in your baptism (Galatians 3:27). Don’t throw it way. And keep it white by receiving Jesus in His Supper whenever it’s offered for the forgiveness of your sins (Matthew 26:28). For Bobbie wants to see you in eternity in the greatest of all family reunions. That’s what Bobbie wants for you, right now. Right now, she is pointing you to the hope that you have in Christ Jesus.

When we die, in Christ, all pain and sorrow will be gone, replaced by joy and bliss. And as good as that is, that’s not the half of it. The fulfillment of what God has for you is on that glorious Day when you’ll be what God originally created you to be. You’ll be sinless and perfect, in both body and soul.

And so, encourage and comfort one another with those words. Bobbie was so important that Jesus became human to save her in both body and soul. You are so important that Jesus became human to save you in both body and soul.

Every day as your body betrays you more and more, remember Bobbie and the reunion you will have with her. As your body betrays you, remember the resurrection of the body. Then, all will be perfect and complete, and your body will be beyond your imagining, in the image of Christ’s glorious and risen body (Philippians 3:21).

Remember the resurrection. Let that reality pull you forward through the darkest of times, into the joy you have in Jesus. Amen.

 

For the funeral service bulletin, click here: Funeral Service–Bobbie Hansen (21 Nov 2014)

 

 

Comments

  1. Bobbie Anders says:

    That was a beautiful sermon you gave for Bobbie Hansen. I’m proud to say I knew her and Went to church with her and her husband. She loved the Lord and so do I. Blessings to you Pastor and blessings to the Hansen family.